After watching Chito Vera punt Dominick Cruz into the shadow realm at UFC San Diego, the UFC sets up in Salt Lake City this weekend for a high-stakes rematch between Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards. In the co-main event, Paulo Costa and Luke Rockhold grace us with their good looks and fire power as both fighters look to get back on track towards a title.
UFC 278 marks the finish line of a 12-week run for the promotion, and I couldn’t be more excited for this card. We may not get every fight to finish like we did two weeks ago, but there will be fireworks going off inside the Vivint center in Utah Saturday. Below I’ll break down the main card and preliminary bouts from a betting perspective as well as give leans on bouts I wouldn’t personally bet on but maybe can help you make some coin. All of the odds are provided from BetMGM.
Usman vs. Edwards Odds
Kamaru Usman -400, Leon Edwards +280
This is a rematch seven years in the making. The last time these two welterweights met in the cage, it was 2015 and Usman had just won The Ultimate Fighter and signed his six-figure contract. His debut fight was against Edwards, who at the time was already in the UFC and making his fourth appearance. In the first round, Edwards seemed to have the advantage on the feet and managed to negate the first couple takedown attempts. When Usman finally was able to take Edwards to the ground he was immediately in danger as he found himself in a triangle attempt from Edwards until the round ended.
One thing was clear to Usman, and it was that he had arrived at the top and was fighting an opponent who was just as athletic and could make up the power difference with sharper and faster strikes. In the second round, Usman stunned Edwards early and applied a type of pace and pressure that drained him of his will to fight and led to Usman almost finishing Edwards in the closing seconds of the third round.
After that fight Usman went on a winning streak that currently puts him at the top of the division as champion, and Edwards has not lost since. After beating Nate Diaz in 2021, Edwards has finally been granted the opportunity to avenge his loss to Usman.
Usman opened up as a heavy favorite at -375 and is currently sitting at -400. While I agree that he may have the advantage in the wrestling department, Usman didn’t exactly walk through Edwards in their first matchup, and even with zero experience in that department, Edwards was still able to negate takedowns and even stand right back up and make it difficult for Usman to control him.
Edwards opened as a moderate/heavy underdog at +280, and I believe the line is too wide, especially when you take into account that Edwards has had seven years to improve his wrestling, and if you’ve watched his climb to the top, then you know he has fought his share of wrestlers and has come out on top convincingly. I don’t think Edwards was ever really beat by Usman in their first matchup, instead I believe that if he hadn’t used up his gas tank defending takedowns all fight long, he would’ve kept it standing and picked Usman apart.
Edwards is the faster, more technical and hungrier fighter in my opinion, and with a line this wide I’ll be taking a chance on the dog in the main event and witness the winning streak of the Nigerian nightmare finally come to an end. Another bet to consider would be this fight to go the distance at -150 as both fighters are very durable and average over 15 minutes of fight time.
Bets: Leon Edwards ML +300/FGTD -150
Costa vs. Rockhold Odds
Luke Rockhold +260 vs. Paulo Costa -350
After three years of retirement, Rockhold steps into the octagon once again. 2014 was a breakout year for Rockhold, as he went on a winning streak that would culminate with him winning the belt in 2015 after beating Chris Weidman at UFC 194. Standing 6-foot-3 with a 77-inch reach, Rockhold is the type of athlete who just happened to choose fighting as his profession but could easily play just about any professional sport if he chose too. A truly well-rounded fighter, Rockhold averages 4.18 significant strikes landed per minute at a 48% accuracy rate. He absorbs just 2.43 strikes per minute, which would seem like a good number if you left out the fact that it doesn’t take many strikes to send Rockhold to the shadow realm.
Costa is similar to Rockhold in the sense that he is a physical specimen and high-octane athlete who, when all cylinders are clicking, he can put away just about anyone he touches. At 6-foot-1 with a 72-inch reach, Costa is at a disadvantage in this matchup and will look to use his berserker style of fighting to close the distance between them and apply pressure.
The lines opened with Costa as a moderate/heavy favorite at -275, and he currently sits at -350. I believe that the better fighter is in fact Rockhold, and he has more tools in his belt to beat the dangerous Costa. Yet, the physical aspects of the fight are not as important as the mental aspect. Rockhold retired and Costa — after losing back-to-back for the first time in his career — decided to take some time away from the cage to better his nutrition and heal injuries that hindered him going into the fight with Martin Vettori.
This fight comes down to who is better prepared mentally, because physically both fighters are coming into this fight in the best shape of their careers. From a betting perspective I don’t think this fight makes it past the second round, and I also don’t think Rockhold is fully mentally prepared and is still trying to convince himself that he still loves to fight. Give me Costa to win in either Round 1 or 2 and send Rockhold back into retirement.
Bet: Paulo Costa in Rounds 1 or 2 -145
Aldo vs. Dvalishvili Odds
Jose Aldo +110, Merab Dvalishvili -140
In one of the weekend’s most exciting matchups, future Hall of Famer Jose Aldo faces division wrecking ball and rising star Merab Dvalishvili. This fight is a grappler vs. striker matchup at the highest level. Dvalishvili averages 7.30 takedowns per fight at a 45% rate and does not shy away from his gameplan of putting a pace on his opponents that is miserable to deal with. He also averages 4.26 significant strikes landed per minute and doesn’t give strikers the ability to fight from range or use length as an advantage. Dvalishvili doesn’t attempt many submissions when on the ground and instead opts to break and dominate his opponents with a relentless pace and ground and pound.
Aldo is a legend of the sport, on his second title run in a new division. The rebirth in a new division can make fans forget how dominant Aldo truly was as a champion. At 31-7-0, Aldo has not only fought top-tier talent for over a decade, but he dominated top-tier talent for all of his career in the UFC until he ran into the phenomenon that is Conor McGregor.
This fight opened up a pick ’em. Currently Aldo sits as a slight underdog at +110 and Dvalishvili a slight favorite at -140. At these odds I expect the lines to be exactly how they opened as a pick ’em come fight night, and depending on how Round 1 goes, we may also see an opportunity to live bet. The determining factor for this matchup will be in the wrestling department and whether Aldo can put that 90% takedown defense to good use against Dvalishvili. If this were Aldo a couple years ago, I would’ve sided with him to not only win but possibly even find a finish early. but as the saying goes, father time catches us all and, in this match, up I’ll be going with Dvalishvili to simply be too much and grind out a decision win against the UFC legend.
Bet: Dvalishvili by decision +155
Pudilova vs. Yanan
Luci Pudilova -125, Wu Yanan +105
This fight was originally scheduled for the prelims until Dana White decided to have them fight on the PPV main card, putting heavyweights Alexander Romanov and Marcin Tybura as the feature prelim of the night. Pudilova opened as a -165 favorite and is currently sitting at -125, while Yanan opened as a +130 underdog and is now a slight underdog at +105. Both fighters are similar in height and reach and fight out of an orthodox stance. Pudilova averages 4.15 significant strikes landed per minute at a 36% rate, and Yanan averages slightly more at 4.42 significant strikes landed per minute. Neither fighter attempts many takedowns, and they also similarly have only been stopped once in their pro careers. From a betting perspective I am going to fade this fight and instead just get a bathroom break before the Aldo fight. Gun to my head though I would lean with Yanan.
Bet: No bet/Lean Wu Yanan ML
Pedro vs. Hunsucker Odds
Tyson Pedro -750, Harry Hunsucker +500
When you breakdown the heavyweight division, you always have to factor in the fact that a knockout is possible at any moment in the fight. That’s even more true when you consider the fact that Hunsucker has never seen the four-minute mark in any of his fights in the UFC and Pedro has only seen one decision fight in his career. The MMA math says that this fight is going to end in the first round. Hunsucker is dubbed “The Hurricane” because his style is chaos, and I see this fight going for Pedro similar to how his fight last year against Ike Villanueva went. Pedro looked good, avoided Villanueva’s power and used vicious leg kicks to find a finish in the dying seconds of the first round. Against Hunsucker, I see the fight finishing earlier considering the over-reaching and wild brawling style of Hunsucker along with his two-minute fight time average. I’ll be taking Pedro to avoid the power and find a finish in the first round by KO/TKO.
Bet: Tyson Pedro by TKO/KO Stoppage Round 1 -165
Tybura vs. Romanov Odds
Marcin Tybura +300, Alexander Romanov -375
This fight was originally scheduled for the main card. A perfect 16-0-0 Romanov looks to improve his record and continue to dominate on his way to the title shot. With five fights in the UFC, including his debut in 2020, Romanov has only gone to a decision once — before that he had never gone past the second round. Averaging a fight time of 7:26, Romanov does not waste time getting to his game plan of taking his opponents down and grinding his way to either a submission or ground-and-pound finish. With 10 submission wins on his record and averaging 6.26 takedowns per 15 minutes, I expect Romanov to get this fight to the mat and look for a finish from the sound of the bell. Tybura does have a background in grappling and at 22-7-0 has an edge in the experience department but I feel that he is slightly outmatched here, and he may fend off the first few subs attempts but will eventually succumb to the pressure of “King Kong” and get finished. The [icks are for Romanov to win inside the distance at -160 and for Romanov to win by submission at +375.
Bets: Romanov ITD -160/Romanov to win by submission +375
Santos vs. Gordon Odds
Leonardo Santos +240, Jared Gordon -300
Santos is 42 years old and says he doesn’t see retirement coming any time soon. Both he and Gordon are currently on losing streaks and looking to get back into the win column this weekend. Both fighters average just over two rounds of fight time and are both similar in height, but Santos holds a seven-inch reach advantage. Still, I don’t think Santos uses his distance well, and most of his strikes are used to open up opportunities for the takedown where he feels at home. Gordon fights with a similar style, as he averages 2.22 takedowns per 15 minutes and also has a jiujitsu background. I can see Santos finding a takedown early in the fight but not being able to find the submission as easily as he hopes, as Gordon knows his way around submission defense and defends takedowns 54% of the time, which indicates to me that Gordon can also have success on the mat. Gordon opened as a -350 favorite and is currently -300, while Santos opened as a +260 underdog and is now a +240 underdog. Both fighters have shown durability issues as of late and for that reason instead of picking a side to win outright I will go with violence and take the FDGTD prop at +105.
Bet: Gordon/Santos FDGTD +105
Woodson vs. Saltana Odds
Sean Woodson -350, Luis Saldana +260
These two fighters have similar fight styles. Woodson has a five-inch reach advantage and also possesses more power behind his strikes, averaging 5.75 significant strikes landed per minute with a 44% accuracy rate. Woodson also has a four-inch height advantage and is very big for the division, and with an 82% takedown defense rate I don’t see Saldana being successful on any of his takedown attempts during the fight. Saldana is 5-foot-11 with a 73-inch reach and averages 4.92 significant strikes landed per minute. Landing 50% of these strikes, Saldana has all the tools to be a great fighter but lacks severely when it comes to his gas tank and tends to slow down as the fight goes into the later rounds. From a betting perspective, I’ll be betting this fight to finish early and for Woodson to win inside the distance.
Bet: Woodson by KO/TKO or DQ +175
Maverick vs. Young Odds
Miranda Maverick -650, Shanna Young +425
This fight is a rematch of one in 2019 when Maverick was fighting under the Invicta banner. In that fight, Young did not look to have much and was put away rather quickly by first-round submission. If you were to tell me that this fight happened 10 years ago, I would probably give Young a better chance at possibly winning this fight. But it wasn’t — it was only three years ago, and Maverick has vastly improved since then, so I don’t see this fight going any better for Young. I’ll take Maverick to win by submission and also to finish this fight in under 2.5 rounds at plus money.
Bet: Maverick by sub +150/Maverick/Young under 2.5 rounds +105
Fletcher vs. Loosa Odds
AJ Fletcher -160, Ange Loosa +130
Two Dana White Contender Series graduates made their debuts in 2021. Fletcher found a finish in his Contender Series debut while Loosa lost a close war with current UFC stud Jack Della Maddalena. With an average fight time of 8:42, Fletcher fights like he is shot out of a cannon and looks to find finishes early and has six first-round finishes on his pro record. On the other hand, Loosa averages 15 minutes of fight time and even though he averages 5.42 significant strikes landed per minute, he can be very patient at times and more reactive and defensive instead of offensive. fletcher averages 4.31 takedowns per 15 minutes and surely will be looking for the takedown early and often in this fight, and I expect him to get the takedown but not as easily as he may hope, as Loosa boasts a 100% takedown defense rate. If there is a chink in Fletcher’s armor, it could be in the form of his gas tank, as the pace he pushes can eventually burn him out if he doesn’t find the finish early and is forced to work harder than expected. I do think that Fletcher can falter if he blows his gas tank, but the lack of volume from Loosa and his style of fighting makes me lean with Fletcher to win by points and considering the durability of both fighters will also take the fight to go the distance.
Bets: Fletcher/Loosa FGTD -143/Fletcher by points +200
Albazi vs. Figueiredo Odds
Amir Albazi -500, Francisco Figueiredo +375
This should be a fun clash between two well-rounded fighters. Both fighters come in on a winning streak and look to keep the momentum going. Figueiredo is the younger brother of current champion Deiveson Figueredo, but he possesses none of what makes his older brother great. He lacks the rare power that makes the slow, patient fight style effective. Figueiredo averages a mere 1.98 significant strikes landed per minute and is a very explosive opportunistic fighter like his brother. Yet as I mentioned earlier, he lacks the power to knock anyone out; he only has three knockout wins on his record against some questionable opponents on the regional scene. His most recent outing saw him submit Daniel lacerda after taking advantage of a kneebar submission during a transition on the ground. I don’t have to overthink this match up — if Albazi can steer clear of any danger than he should find the finish late in the third or win on the cards unanimously.
Bet: Albazi by decision +110/Albazi/Figueiredo FGTD -135
Aoriquleng vs. Perrin Odds
Aoriquleng -140, Jay Perrin +130
As with all fights in the bantamweight division, this matchup should be engaging. Originally a flyweight in his debut year in 2021, Aoriquleng didn’t find much success when he faced Jeff Molina and Cody Durden, as his lack of respect mixed with lack of defensive gave Molina and Durden openings to edge out decision wins. His last fight in April was in a new division and proved to be more promising, as Aoriquleng found a finish by way of knockout against Cameron Else. Perrin on the other hand found his way onto the Contender Series and lost against Dwight Joseph by controversial decision. He would be redeemed by making a short-notice appearance in February of this year but still had no success as he was on the end of another decision lost. Perrin has a boxing background but rather use his grappling to find success as four of his six finishes have come by way of submission. Taking into consideration the very hittable nature of Aoriquleng, who on average absorbs 7.77 strikes per minute. I can see Perrin finding success if he is able to steer clear of any danger and take advantage of his sophomore debut in the octagon. The line favors Aoriquleng, who opened up as a -190 favorite but currently sits at -140 as a slight favorite. The closer this gets to fight night the more of a coinflip I expect it to be, and I’ll be on the side of the dog while he’s plus money. Give me Perrin to be successful as the dog of the week.
Bet: Jay Perrin ML +130
Da Silva vs. Altamirano Odds
Daniel Da Silva +140, Victor Altamirano -165
This matchup is in the flyweight division, so expect this fight to be fast, furious and violent, especially in the first round. Da Silva averages 3:32 of fight time while averaging 3.40 significant strikes landed per minute at a 77% rate of accuracy. A stat that is concerning is the fact that he absorbs nearly double the strikes at 7.36 strikes per minute. He’s facing Altamirano, who averages 5.97 significant strikes landed per minute at a 57% accuracy rate. If Altamirano can get past the first round and weather the opponent’s hurricane, I can see him finding success late in the second round going into the third and possibly even finding a finish late. Altamirano does tend to let opponents take him down, which can be a problem early in the fight, but as Da Silva fades, I expect him to have no issues and win the fight by stoppage late or decision.
Bet: Victor Altamirano ML -170